DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
2 January 2002
The following is a near-verbatim record of today's noon briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Thank you very much for coming. I didn't expect to have so many of you here today.
Happy New Year to all of you and to those of you watching on television as well. We are resuming the daily briefings today after a break for the holidays. And as you will see, we are resuming at a very slow pace. It's a very short briefing to get you used to the rhythm, bit by bit.
There are no Security Council meetings planned for today.
Yesterday, the first of the month, as you know, there's a change in presidency and Ambassador Jagdish Koonjul of Mauritius assumed the Council presidency for the month of January.
Also as of yesterday, five new members joined the Council for a two-year term -- Bulgaria, Cameroon, Guinea, Mexico and Syria -– replacing five others -– Bangladesh, Jamaica, Mali, Tunisia and Ukraine.
I have a note here on the Afghanistan humanitarian programme.
The Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported today during the regular United Nations briefing in Islamabad, Pakistan, that the transport corridor from Quetta to Herat has reopened for much needed deliveries from Pakistan into southwest Afghanistan. It added that security in and around Kandahar is still unstable, and access to several areas in southern Afghanistan is restricted due to movements of armed elements and weaponry, bombing raids and fear of Taliban elements in the area.
In eastern Afghanistan the situation is in part similar to that in the south. In and around Jalalabad security is still slightly unstable. United Nations security assessment is currently being conducted in Kandahar and Jalalabad. If these are positive, United Nations international staff will resume activity in these locations.
Also during the Islamabad briefing, the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that for the first time in several weeks, a large number [close to 5,000] of Afghans have arrived at the Chaman border crossing looking to enter Pakistan. The trend had been the reverse [where up to 4,000 Afghans were leaving Pakistan to return home].
The UNHCR also updated journalists on their various operations including the expected arrival today in Herat from Iran of several trucks carrying 3,000 mattresses, over 7,000 blankets, 1,500 jerry cans as well as soap bars and lanterns.
The measles immunization campaign, run by the Afghan Ministry of Health in cooperation with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), began in Kabul where there are some 200 vaccination centres set up at mosques and hospitals. The campaign is intended to vaccinate 1.2 million children, between the ages of six months and 12 years, before expanding to the rest of the country in the coming three months.
As reported earlier this week, the World Food Programme (WFP) has sent a record amount of food into Afghanistan during the month of December, almost 116,000 metric tonnes. The WFP will now scale down deliveries back to 40 to 50,000 metric tonnes, which is the usual monthly target, and focus on the nutritional situation of people affected by three years of drought.
The WFP also reports a substantial decrease of food prices in the main urban centres in Afghanistan. In Kabul, the price of a kilogramme of wheat decreased by almost 50 per cent.
Changing the continents now -- moving to Africa -- over the past two days in Sierra Leone, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) reports that a total of 359 combatants turned in their weapons in the eastern districts of Kailahun and Kenema, bringing the total number of combatants disarmed in the country since last May to 42,132.
Of that number, 16,620 were from the Revolutionary United Front; 25,314 were from the pro-government Civil Defence Force; and 198 were former Sierra Leone Army and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council members.
The number of disarmaments is a significant achievement, exceeding the initial expectations that some 30,000 combatants would disarm. More combatants are expected to turn in their weapons by 5 January, which is the date by which the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone intends to complete the disarmament process.
**United Nations House -- Barbados
This afternoon, the Secretary-General will open United Nations House in Barbados. The state-of-the-art building, provided by the Government of Barbados, will house offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Women’s Fund (UNIFEM), the International Telecommunications Union (ITC) and the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP). These offices will serve not only Barbados but also the nine other countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
The Prime Minister of Barbados, the Honorable Owen Arthur will be present. Prime Ministers of other OECS countries are expected to attend the inauguration, along with Ministers of Government and members of the diplomatic community in Barbados.
We have available upstairs the Secretary-General’s remarks under embargo until later this afternoon.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that as of yesterday, there have been 32 confirmed cases of Ebola in the latest outbreak, 20 cases in Gabon and 12 in the Republic of the Congo. Among the 32 confirmed cases, there have been 23 deaths -– 17 in Gabon and 6 in the Republic of the Congo. The WHO says that a total of 191 people are being monitored for symptoms for the required 21 days.
We have available upstairs the update, along with an updated revised fact sheet also by WHO on the bubonic plague.
As of yesterday, 1 January, the status of the Nairobi-based United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, known as Habitat, has been changed to a full-fledged United Nations programme.
This change was mandated by the General Assembly in a resolution passed during this session, the fifty-sixth session. For those of you interested, it's General Assembly resolution A/56/206.
According to the press release issued this morning, this change of status for United Nations-Habitat, as the programme will now be known, means that the Programme will be in a better position to help governments and other partners to meet the Millennium Declaration’s goal of improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2020.
The full press release is available upstairs.
**Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly
I have here a request from Jan Fischer, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly, who says that as neither the Assembly nor its committees will be meeting, and the President of the General Assembly is not in New York, Jan Fischer will not be giving any briefings this week. He is in the building, however, and you are welcome to call him if you have any questions. He also asked me to wish you a happy New Year.
Briefings tomorrow. The guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Stephen Lewis, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for HIV/AIDS in Africa. He will brief you on the Twelfth International Conference on Sexually Transmitted Diseases and on his official visit to Nigeria.
There are no press conferences scheduled for today and for tomorrow.
And I wish to take this opportunity to welcome Bernard Estrade from AFP who is replacing Michel Leclercq who is being transferred, I believe, to Paris. So, Bernard welcome, and Michel, best of luck to you in your new assignments.
**Questions and Answers
Question: It seems there were some changes made on First Avenue today. New barriers were put up, and people were rerouted to the Visitor's Entrance. I'm wondering if any thought has been given by New York City or by the United Nations for what they're going to do about First Avenue. Is it going to remain closed? Will they make it permanent? Will it be reopened at some time?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't know the answer. I don’t know the changes you’re talking about. I haven't seen them. Are they inside the complex or are they outside?
Correspondent: On the sidewalk, they've totally changed around all the barriers. To get into the Visitor's Entrance you now have to go up to, it seems like 47th Street, rather than go across on 45th Street. And the Delegate's entrance is permanently sealed.
Deputy Spokesman: Outside on the streets are New York City Police -- host Government's decisions. It's within their responsibility to provide protection to the United Nations premises. But I can check with Security and find out if they know.
Correspondent: It looked to me like delegates can no longer get in the Delegate's Entrance.
Deputy Spokesman: I don't know, I have to check. I'll look into that. [The city authorities did not notify the UN of any changes in the access to the building.]
Question: You mentioned in Monday's briefing highlights, a United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) press release on an investigation of an incident in Goma. I couldn't find it anywhere on the Web and was wondering if there was a copy of it or if you could give us any more details.
Deputy Spokesman: I don't have anything other than what we already had on Monday. But talk to Stephane who's following that story in our office. I'm sure we have nothing new from today's cables.
Question: Did you get any details from UNHCR about why these refugees are crossing at Chaman again? Why there's been an upsurge in that?
Deputy Spokesman: They don't know. They'll be looking into it. That was the very question I asked, and I don’t think we have an explanation yet.
Question: When will the weekly update from the Office of the Iraq Programme be coming out?
Deputy Spokesman: It usually comes on Tuesdays. Of course it was a holiday yesterday. I think last week they had it on Thursday. I think there was one last week, if I'm not mistaken. So, look at that one, and there should be one coming up in the course of this week.
Question: Any word about Mr. Brahimi?
Deputy Spokesman: Mr. Brahimi continues in Kabul. He continues his regular meetings with different authorities in the Afghan interim Government, also members of Afghan civil society. As you know, as part of the work programme, is the commission to establish the special Loya Jirga, which should be done by 22 January. So he's working on that quite actively with his Afghan counterparts.
Question: Will his office be here or in Kabul?
Deputy Spokesman: He has an office there but he also has people working with him here.
Question: Is there any information about the number of nations that recognizes the new Government in Afghanistan so far?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't have information on that. The Afghan Government would have that in Kabul. We can try to look into that for you, but I think you'd better try yourself with your correspondents in Kabul.
Question: About the office in Barbados, did you say it is a gift from the Government of Barbados?
Deputy Spokesman: The United Nations will not pay rent. We'll pay maintenance services. But the actual building is offered by the Government, as is the case in a number of countries. It’s a most welcome development. We're very grateful for that.
Question: Do you have any word on how long the Secretary-General will be in Barbados?
Deputy Spokesman: He's coming to New York at the end of this week.
Thank you very much. Have a very good lunch and a pleasant afternoon. Thank you and Happy New Year again.
* *** *
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|